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The southern coastlines of temperate Australia are home to some of the most diverse underwater seascapes in the world. From giant kelp forests to vast seagrass meadows, cool water corals and kaleidoscope sponge gardens, 85% of the estimated 12,000 marine species are found nowhere else on Earth. They provide benefits to more than 16 million Australians (70% of our population) in the form of fresh seafood, abundant recreation, removal of pollution, protection of shorelines and storage of carbon.
Despite these obvious benefits, southern seascapes can be described as ‘forgotten coastlines’. Until now, relatively little attention has been paid to their protection or restoration – and the essential human services they provide – from over exploitation, expanding coastal development and coastal eutrophication.
Mapping Ocean Wealth will create a new attitude towards conserving our southern seascapes and establish the case for the ecological, financial and social benefits of restoration. It will change public perception and the way we value, support and resource marine restoration and protection.
What is Mapping Ocean Wealth?
Through our global marine conservation work, The Nature Conservancy knows that a major limiting factor in large-scale protection and restoration is the lack of sound scientific information to clearly communicate the social and financial benefits of these habitats to humans.
Our Mapping Ocean Wealth project will address this by calculating and describing – in quantitative and spatial terms — all that the ocean provides, in an effort to support smart investment and decision-making to sustain the ocean now and for future generations.
Mapping Ocean Wealth combines tools and maps to make scientific data more accessible to audiences at all levels. The purpose is to visualise and simplify global, regional and local ecosystem benefits for use in natural resource planning and policy decisions.
By mapping the wealth of our oceans, we can move from using broad global averages that illustrate the value of oceans at general scales, to very specific local detail that informs decision-making and evaluates nature as an asset. The fine-resolution maps and models based on local data can help inform and improve coastal and ocean planning, conservation, development and investment decisions.
Mapping Ocean Wealth in Australia
Our Australian Mapping Ocean Wealth project will develop specific local maps and models focusing on Port Phillip and Western Port Bays in Victoria and the Richmond River Estuary in New South Wales. This new data will also contribute to mapping ocean wealth information globally.
What habitat types are we focused on?
What ecosystem services are we focused on?
Mapping Ocean Wealth will focus on four main ecosystem services:
|Fisheries Production||Recreation & Tourism|
|A Mapping Ocean Wealth project in the Gulf of Mexico found that just one hectare of oyster reef would add 3,200 adult blue crabs to the population every year.||A study in 2003 estimated that some 121 million people worldwide took part in nature-based travel and tourism activities include wildlife watching, recreational fishing and scuba diving.|
|At a larger scale, across 31 major bays and estuaries on the Gulf of Mexico and the Eastern Seaboard of the USA, oyster reefs are generating approximately 185,000 metric tons of fish annually.||Recreational fishing around mangroves has been estimated to contribute $1 billion per year toward Florida’s economy.|
|An existing study from temperate Australia has calculated that each year, a single hectare of seagrass generates some 30,000 additional fish to the community, equivalent to 1 kilogram of fish for every square metre. This equates to a seagrass bed just one hectare in size generating a commercial fishery enhancement worth in the order of $32,000 annually.|
|Blue Carbon||Coastal Protection|
|Mangroves host disproportionate amounts of carbon — although they only occupy 0.6% of tropical forests by area they have 1.6% of the total tropical forest biomass.||A global assessment of mangroves found that a mere 100 metres of mangroves can reduce wave height by two-thirds, while very wide mangrove forests can significantly reduce flooding from storm surges.|
|Global models estimate that every year coastal wetlands sequester enough CO2 to offset the burning of over 1 billion barrels of oil.||In the Gulf of Mexico experts have calculated that oyster reefs save communities $85,000 per year, per hectare when used in place of artificial breakwaters.|
Source: Spalding, MD; Brumbaugh, RD and Landis, E (2016) Atlas of Ocean Wealth The Nature Conservancy, Arlington VA
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